Time to get this 25-post series started at long last. Up first? Four recent arrivals on the major college football scene and a school 53 years removed from its last bowl appearance ...
125. GEORGIA STATE
First, the plusses for the Panthers. They're nestled in an area close to plenty of talent. They're playing in the Georgia Dome, so they can sell a pro facility regardless of how well they draw. They hired a coach (Trent Miles) that helped Indiana State achieve respectability after hitting rock-bottom a few years back.
So this isn't a hopeless case long-term, especially with Georgia State finding a home in the Sun Belt. There will be access to bowls, access to players and access to TV.
None of that matters this year, since the Panthers are a 1-10 FCS team transitioning to the sport's highest level. They'll play at Alabama and West Virginia. In general, it won't be a pleasant sight.
Only so much should be expected from a fourth-year program making this sort of leap. Put Georgia State in the pile of programs that probably would have been better off taking its time constructing a program, but made a jump when the opportunity presented itself. It happens.
For now, there will be lumps. Wideout Albert Wilson is a solid piece, and for those wondering whatever happened to Jeff Jagodzinski, the former Boston College coach is now the Panthers' offensive coordinator. It will take a while before Georgia State is on firm footing; whether that's two years or 10 years, it's clear it won't be this year.
Georgia State in haiku:
It's time for patience
Especially with a trip
124. NEW MEXICO STATE
One of the country's most impossible job --- perhaps the most impossible job --- didn't get any easier with the Aggies getting left out of the game of conference musical chairs when the Western Athletic Conference disappeared after last season.
The good news? New Mexico State heads back to the Sun Belt as a football-only member next year. The bad news? There's still one season an independent to contend with, one that starts with a trip to Texas.
In truth, the Aggies should be commended for stitching together a seven-game home schedule without the luxury of (a) a conference or (b) being Notre Dame. There are undoubtedly opportunities along the way to pick up a victory.
Nonetheless, this was a team outscored by almost three touchdowns a game last season. It couldn't run, nor could it stop the run. This isn't the best situation for former Kent State coach Doug Martin to inherit.
Still, Martin is familiar with tough jobs, has a couple former head coaches as coordinators (Gregg Brandon on offense, David Elson on defense) and will have a reasonably veteran offensive line at his disposal. The Aggies could exceed their 1-11 record from last season, but there's not enough to expect the school's first bowl bid since 1960.
New Mexico State in haiku:
Year's most random game?
BC's November trek to
New Mexico State
Perhaps it's a good thing the Minutemen weren't full FBS members last season. The numbers wouldn't have been pretty.
The 12.7 points per game would have ranked last nationally. The 91.6 rushing average was better than only Tulane and Washington State. The defense that gave up 40.2 points an outing? Better than only Idaho, Marshall and Colorado.
Those results shouldn't have been a surprise for a program that hovered around .500 in the CAA for the previous four years, and there's not much Massachusetts can do but improve. Still, there's a pretty wide gap between competitiveness in the Mid-American Conference and where we last saw the Minutemen last season.
Facing Kansas State, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin within the first four weeks of the season won't do much to make things look any prettier. But there should be some progress for the Minutemen as second-year coach Charley Molnar continues to improve his program's talent level to something befitting a major-college program.
The MAC is a fluid enough league that the Minutemen aren't doomed to occupy the cellar for a long time. It will be difficult, though, to stray too far from the bottom of the conference.
Massachusetts in haiku:
Returns on offense; Maybe
Not such a bad thing
122. TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO
Hats off to the Roadrunners for faring about as well as they could have hoped in their lone season in the WAC. They got clobbered by the league's top three teams and went 8-1 against a mix of FCS foes, fellow transitioning schools and soon-to-be-independents.
Now comes reality as Larry Coker's bunch moves into Conference USA. There are no FCS schools on the schedule. Everyone the Roadrunners play has been at the sport's highest level for more than a decade. Idaho and New Mexico State are nowhere to be seen.
Which is not to say UTSA won't be more skilled, or deeper or more developed this season. It very well might be. But the record isn't going to reflect it.
Of course, the Roadrunners enjoy particular stability on offense, and that should help keep them in a few games over the course of the season. Conversely, it will be a tough task to replicate a plus-14 turnover margin, regardless of the set of opponents.
Texas-San Antonio has done plenty right as it built its program from scratch over the last two years, and its location ensures it will be relevant in Conference USA so long as it is competently run. There probably won't be many triple-digit rankings in the Roadrunners' future, but it will be tough to avoid a lean autumn this year.
Texas-San Antonio in haiku:
Beep! Beep! Roadrunners
Building solid nucleus
For a new program
121. SOUTH ALABAMA
The Jaguars' record in their first FBS season wasn't flattering (2-11), but five losses by 10 points or less signified a fair bit of competitiveness.
And that will serve South Alabama well moving forward.
Bigger, stronger and faster isn's simply a cliche for a start-up program making a quick leap into the sport's top tier. It's a necessity, as the Jaguars learned the hard way last season.
It might be a few years before coach Joey Jones assembles quite enough talent to make a dent in the Sun Belt, but South Alabama should continue to be respectable on defense. It's not a terrible plan: Try to keep scores manageable and hope the offense can do its part.
This year's schedule isn't easy, per se, but besides a late September trip to Tennessee there aren't obvious bludgeonings on the horizon. The Jaguars aren't winning six games, but four victories isn't out of the question if the offense is better than expected.
South Alabama in haiku:
Ever wonder where
Ex-Hoo Ross Metheny went?
Well, he's in Mobile
--- Patrick Stevens